Italians accused of murders challenge authorities in New Delhi
(By Sandra Cordon)
New Delhi, March 7 – Two Italian anti-piracy marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen two years ago filed a petition against Indian authorities permitting that country’s NIA anti-terrorism police to probe the case, judicial sources told ANSA on Friday.
Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who have been held in India without charges since the February 2012 incident, lodged the protest with the Indian supreme court on Thursday. The 50-page document argues that allowing the NIA anti-terror authorities to probe the case is not valid because their jurisdiction only extends to certain laws, such as suppression of piracy, which do not apply to the Italian sailors.
The document was prepared by the Italian legal team that has worked with the two marines for almost two years. India’s Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati has already told the supreme court in New Delhi that he favoured dropping the anti-terrorism laws in this case – but has still asked the courts to uphold the NIA leading the investigation.
The court adjourned the case again Friday without setting the next hearing date. Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini tweeted Friday that she had “just spoken” to her Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid about the marines and “we are working to bring them back to Italy”. Latorre and Girone are accused of allegedly killing fishermen Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki after mistaking them for pirates and reportedly opening fire on their fishing trawler.
The incident occurred while the marines while guarding the privately owned Italian-flagged oil-tanker MT Enrica Lexie off the coast of the southern Indian state of Kerala in February 2012. The two marines have been living and working at the Italian embassy in India pending charges. Rome has protested a long series of delays in the case, which has caused a deep diplomatic schism between the countries. It also fought hard to ensure New Delhi dropped any possible plans to apply the tough anti-piracy and anti-terrorism law that could have mandated the death penalty.
The Italian government claimed credit for India’s eventual decision to waive the law, saying its firmness and enlistment of support from the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton and from NATO had forced New Delhi to give in. In taking the death penalty off the table, India has warned that the pair could face up to 10 years in jail. Italy is seeking international arbitration on the incident, which it insists took place in international waters.
Premier Matteo Renzi said on his appointment last month the case was “absurd and shocking”. He said the pair have been stuck “for too long” in New Delhi and has given them his personal guarantee to see them returned to Italy. The Italian government’s special envoy on the case Staffan de Mistura has argued that if the marines must face trial, it should be in Italy. “They must come home,” he said.